Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sault Ste. Marie (Soo Saint Marie)

Sault Ste Marie, is another stop for us along Lake Superior. Our GPS kept referring to it as Salt Sweet Mary, ha ha!  The Soo Locks, located here, allow ships to go from Lake Superior to the St. Mary river and onward to whatever their final destination may be.

From our campsite, we can sit and watch the ship traffic going in and out of the locks.  The Army Corps of Engineers provides a web cam, which shows the lock activity.  I was amazed to see so many other folks, like us, camping here to watch the ships.  If you are into it, this is an exciting place to stop.
Once again, we met some very nice folks here and were able to get some good tips on what to see while we were in town.  This is a city managed campground and they include on your site location map, some ship drawings so you know which of the 5 types that go up and down the Great Lakes you are looking at: Ocean bulk freighter, ocean general cargo vessel, lakes bulk freighter or self-unloaders.  It also explains some of the boat whistles.  All of this added to our river enjoyment.

Next morning we went to the Tower of History.  this was originally a plan by the Catholic church in town to build a major tower with campus surrounding it.  Well the tower got built in 1968, but that is as far as the project went.  It now offers visitors the history of the area, presented in video, pictures, drawings and artifacts from the late 1660s.  That is about 30 minutes of info, but the most important part of stopping here is that you can go to the top of the tower for a view of the surrounding area.  Take elevator to the top or climb 292 steps. The morning was sunny and clear, so the view was excellent. Could see ships lining up to go thru the locks.

Tower of History

Canada across the water

Back down from the tower, we went to the Soo Locks Visitor Center.  The visitor center has a large display of the history of the locks, including how the locks function.  The draw though is the long multilevel viewing platforms that were built to see the ships rising and lowering in the locks. Quite fun to watch and boy it does draw a crowd. Especially nice is the fact that staff at the locks announce the name of the ship, it's history, it's cargo and it's destination.  One ship was heading into Lake Superior and on to Thunder Bay.  The other ship was heading out of Lake Superior and going to Naples, Italy.  I do not remember what cargo they each had.
In addition, there are a variety of boat tours that you can take which allow you to hang out with the big ships.  Since we had recently taken a cruise in Duluth we did not do it here.

soo locks

the ship closest to us is coming out of Lake Superior, the other is going into Lake Superior

Next stop was to drive 70 miles to Whitefish Point and visit the Shipwreck Museum.  Have your heard the Gordon Lightfoot song about the " Edmund Fitzgerald", well it sank 17 miles of shore from Whitefish Point.  There are lots of ships that sank here, due to storms, fog and a narrow passageway.  Most are not in very deep water, less than 200 feet, but their holds were full of iron ore, limestone or other heavy materials.  They usually sank within a few minutes.  The museum has artifacts retrieved from the various ships, personal items, dinnerware, pieces from the boats and more.  You can do a self guided tour of the lighthouse keeper's residence.  It's of course pretty isolated and winter happens 9 of the 12 months out of the year.  The museum opened May 1st and they had to shovel snow to be able to open.  Taking with a docent, who lives year round in the area, it was a tough, never ending winter this year.

We both really enjoyed visiting this area and recommend it if you have time.
In general, the Yoopers, Upper Peninsula folks as they refer to themselves are a very friendly folk. They love to laugh and make fun of themselves.  They call the rest of the Michigan folks who come up to visit in the UP, the Trolls(as they live below the Macinac bridge).
Yoopers in the UP

check out the license plate

We press stop a week in Detroit.  Since I wrote this we have already left Detroit and have just spent two days in Cleveland.  I keep trying to write, but lack internet connectivity to be able to pull together complete blogs to send out.  Tomorrow, July 28th we head for Niagara Falls.  It will have taken us almost 3 months to get there from Texas...haha.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!